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Stranger Than Fiction

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A man dressed as a Hasidic Jew tried to rob a Miami pawnshop, but the store manager wrestled him for the weapon, took it away, pointed it at the robber and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, the gun wasn't loaded. "No bullets," Robert Glacum said, "so I whacked him over the head with it, like five times." The robber broke free and got into his getaway car just as Glacum's assistant, Armando Borelly, came out of the pawnshop with a shotgun and blasted the front tire. Despite the flat tire, the robber managed to drive away.

After waiting the required three days to pick up the handgun he purchased at a pawnshop in Crystal River, Fla., Kevin Fitzsimmons, 25, showed up with a 3-foot-long samurai sword and stabbed owner Dave Phillips through the midsection. Police Chief Jim Farley said Phillips, 49, retreated to a rear room, grabbed a pistol and shot Fitzsimmons in the head.

Marie Poleet, 73, spent 40 hours trapped beneath a lawn tractor that fell on her one Sunday afternoon while she was mowing her lawn in Jerseyville, Ill. Two boys waiting for a school bus spotted her lying in a deep ditch Tuesday morning and notified the authorities.

A Linthicum, Md., woman spent the afternoon stuck to the floor after she lost her balance while putting down linoleum and fell into the glue she had spread on the floor for the tiles. Baltimore County Fire Department spokesperson John M. Scholz said the woman finally managed to call for help, but by the time county paramedics and firefighters arrived, the woman had freed herself. Unfortunately, she had sat on her couch, where the rescue crew found her, wearing only a bra and panties, partially stuck to the couch with her legs crossed and glued together and a cordless phone cemented to her hand.

An Egyptian husband threw his wife out a third-floor window of their Cairo home because she gave his sons bigger helpings of chicken for dinner than she gave him, according to the newspaper Al-Akhbar.

A 46-year-old Missouri man and his 25-year-old son were bow-hunting in western Colorado when a black bear came out of the bushes and bit the younger man on the buttock. "His father was carrying a .44-caliber handgun, but apparently became so unnerved by the attack he ended up throwing the weapon at the bear," Division of Wildlife spokesperson Todd Malmsbury said, adding the bear responded by biting the father on the thigh.

A month after Chester L. Spayd complained that violent crime in his neighborhood made him fear for his life, police charged the 28-year-old Reading, Pa., man with the ax murder of his mother's live-in boyfriend. Spayd had been quoted in a story in the Reading Times and Reading Eagle as saying that as a result of recent shootings, "I don't come out of my house much, and nobody does around here." Police said Spayd emerged from his house long enough to drive to the next county and dump the body of Kenny Long, 64, along a highway.

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Bobby Brownfield, the director of funeral homes in Hodgenville and Elizabethtown, Ky., was charged with stealing more than $200,000 in prepaid funeral policies by declaring people dead who were still alive.

When Paul McGregor, 31, proposed to Emma Priestley, 19, she told him that if he would swim a river, she would marry him. He jumped into the 120-foot-wide River Trent in Newark, England and made it about half way across when he disappeared. Authorities who recovered McGregor's body said even though he was a good swimmer, he had been sucked under by fierce currents, which several signs along the river bank warn against. "If we hadn't been so in love," Priestley said, "it wouldn't have happened."

Five armed men hoping to free their colleagues cut through a fence at Mbale Prison in eastern Uganda, then fired into the air and freed 138 inmates before guards drove them off. Military officials said the gang's cohorts weren't among those freed, however, because they were housed in a separate wing. Most of the freed prisoners, mainly petty offenders, returned to the jail voluntarily.

Swedes who are tired of their last names are applying for more original appellations, according to government officials, who noted requests for name changes have risen from 4,000 a year in 1997 to 4,700 last year. "A lot of Swedish names are regarded as being too common," Mattias Benke, a personal name examiner at the Patent and Registration Office, told Reuters news agency. "Particularly people with a surname ending in -son want to change." Benke explained people can take a new name only if it doesn't already exist, unless they can prove it has been in their family, or they can "make one up."

Politicians in the Swiss state of Ticino voted to drop the word "honorable" from their title, explaining it was outdated.

Jair Coelho, 68, who earned a fortune supplying food for prisons in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state, was jailed after an investigation into charges of fraud and racketeering linked to his lucrative contract. Police said Coelho will be served his company's food, which prisoners and prison officials alike have criticized.

When Karen Kershaw of Akron, Ohio, sued used car dealer Rick Remmy, 39, claiming he reneged on a deal to sell her a truck for $300 cash and $400 in sexual favors after she made good on her part of the deal, Remmy took his case to "The People's Court" television show because the producers agreed to pay any financial judgment. Remmy insisted he agreed to sell her the truck for cash only, but she failed to pay. "People's Court" Judge Jerry Sheindlin granted Kershaw a $125 judgment. After the show aired, Stark County Common Please Court Judge Richard D. Reinbold Jr. sentenced Remmy to nine months in jail for going to New York for the show, explaining Remmy violated the terms of his probation for a 1998 felony theft conviction by traveling out of state.

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